Blood Creek An Entertaining Little Horror Piece
By Kristin Battestella
No, I didn’t only tune in to Joel Schumacher’s relatively unknown Blood Creek for Michael Fassbender. Henry Cavill’s here, too- and the words ‘Nazi Zombie Vampire’ are intriguing enough alone, let alone together. Eye candy and scripting faults aside, Schumacher presents a unique, fun blend of monsters and alternative Nazi mysticism.
In 1930s West Virginia, The Wollner family is surprised when they receive a letter asking them to host Nazi scholar Richard Wirth (Fassbender). The financial compensation for the stay is an officer the poor German immigrants can’t refuse. Unfortunately, Wirth is only interested in an ancient Viking rune stone found on the property and uses the stone’s power as part of his mystical practices and deadly Nazi rituals. 70 years later, EMT Evan Marshall (Cavill) can’t get over his brother Victor’s (Dominic Purcell) disappearance two years prior. When Victor returns suddenly one night, Evan follows him back to the Wollner’s homestead- where Liese (Emma Booth), her brother Karl (Laszlo Matray), and their parents (Rainer Winkelvoss and Joy McBrinn) have not aged thanks to Wirth, who himself has changed into a vampire-esque monster on a quest for blood and immortality.
The Tudors meets Prison Break meets HEX? Not quite. Schumacher’s 2009 yarn adds some unique spins on the same old Nazi mysticism and occult naughty with early American connections, Viking lore, and Kensington Stone speculations. It’s all very intriguing mythos, even as some confusion and plot holes enter in halfway thru Blood Creek. Let me get some of that out of the way first. Any well-worn and wise horror viewer will shout the obvious actions and ‘what they should have done…’ at the screen. After such tender time is taken in the beginning twenty minutes to establish story and develop character, a few silly things may jar the viewer. They are in such a vengeful hurry- yet Victor has time for a shower and a haircut montage? Do EMTs always have rabies vaccinations handy on a vampire revenge siege? I don’t think the full potential of writer David Kajganich’s (The Invasion, Pet Sematary) vision was fully realized thanks to some cutting corners production and on the fly rewriting. Some of the exposition is a bit much, perhaps crunched for time and space in the hour and a half frame. If time- perhaps another fifteen minutes- had been taken to fully clarify and explore, Blood Creek could have been a seriously grand horror gem. Instead, everyone gets on just fine despite the English and German barriers and all the foreign and ancient texts and runes. The good guys certainly do learn a lot- and it’s always just the thing they need and at the right nick of time, too. I get these ills out of the way early, because Blood Creek is still somehow original and refreshing.
While not meant to be truly historical, the blend of undead Nazi obsession and contemporary vampirism isn’t as crazy as it sounds- the occult potential is quite the opposite in fact. This isn’t just the standard franchise fantastical serial slasher killer. The rugged filming and quick pacing allow for some good action and style. We even get an unusual little bit of a topper at the conclusion- but that’s almost expected in genre films today. You’d think a combo Nazi Vampire Zombie movie would be popular now with the explosion of vamps for the masses and hip zombies in its wake. Schumacher (praised for St. Elmo’s Fire and A Time to Kill but maligned by Batman & Robin, oiy!) even leaves room for a sequel. But alas, too many title changes and the fact that it feels like nobody saw this movie hurts Blood Creek more than anything else. Despite some questionable story points, the tale here stays fun and entertaining. Though overall serious and spooky, there are tongue in cheek hints and a wry sense of self. Schumacher doesn’t let his Nazi Zombie Vampire yarn get too full of itself- in a way allowing us to forgive any faults and enjoy the good. I must also confess, the name Wirth automatically had me thinking of Billy Wirth from The Lost Boys. “Death by Stereo!”
Who knew Michael Fassbender could be just like The Mummy, but a Nazi and a Zombie and a Vampire and just a teensy bit scarier? For those who only discovered the Irish-German actor thanks to his impressive covert turn in Inglourious Basterds, you can see his seductive and evilly enchanting German and juicy accent here, pre-Basterds. In the first eight minutes of the movie, Fassbender captures a cruel and kinky ‘look fair and feel fouler’ style, and you have to speculate what nefarious things Wirth’s done to the younger Liese (Andreea Perminov) over the years. Although there’s been better makeup on the evil face design forefront, the layering effects are intriguing- unwrapping more and more to reveal the Nazi mysticism twists as Wirth gets more blood. While I’ve heard a few indulgent complaints that you don’t actually see Michael Fassbender’s face proper for most of the film; his macho physical movements, action style, and use of his body to convey fluid danger exudes performance beyond the prosthetics and brings Wirth to life with pimpin’ physicality. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has a sweet trench coat and can pull off a fedora like no man’s business. (Not that I needed more evidence and he’s already in the sixties’ styled X-Men: First Class; but seeing Fass with a tilted fedora, pinstripe suit, and glowing cigarette all but confirms this man could play a period James Bond. I’m just saying.)
Schumacher smartly doesn’t reveal Wirth’s true design all at once, making things all the creepier when we finally do see this elusive Nazi Zombie Vampire in all his glory. Somehow, it is kind of amusing yet nevertheless frightening that Wirth can’t harm his victims thanks to some ‘do not enter’ rune signs on the house. To live in fear of a predator knocking on your door is real world terrifying enough sans any NZVs- that’s why we have locks and agoraphobics. The fact that this terror is achieved by Fassbender’s again impressive (Hunger, anyone?) ability at total transformation for performance is just the bee’s knees. For those that think he is just the next pretty face, Fassbender proves he can get along just fine without his good looks. Wirth makes his Azazeal in HEX a puppy- and yet there’s still a hint of cheeky fun from Fassy as the monster of the piece. I had written the following line in my quick typing notes and was going to change it later, but I think the simplicity speaks for itself:
Is that his voice doing the demonic chants? Oh, yes.
As if one above and beyond pretty boy wasn’t enough, Henry Cavill proves he’s more than a one trick pony in Blood Creek, too. The studly sidekick from The Tudors is innocent and believable here as an unsure brother and half-decent EMT. His American accent is acceptable, too. Though sensible, it’s nice to see Evan go on a mini arc of taking matters into his own hands. He makes mistakes, yes, but learns how to stand up and be a man against Wirth. Naturally, a lot of this development necessitates being him shirtless- especially when things get down and dirty fighting with Wirth. A lot of the depth for our heroic brothers does seem sacrificed in the final act in favor of action, making them seem a little too simplistically drawn. Do we expect too much? Technically, we do have two secondary television leads at the forefront of our film. Both could have been heavier or stronger here, with serious character analysis taking the forefront, but Cavill and Parcell make the most of what they’re given- particularly in one fine confrontation scene. Already Parcell seems typecast as the tough, cool bro who takes action first and thinks about the consequences later. There is a touch of political spin with him being an Iraq veteran versus the evil occult Nazi, but not as much is made of it as there could be. Not that I want politics in my horror, but some post trauma memories or more militaristic style might have been nice. Otherwise, Victor doesn’t have much room to grow. Despite strides from the actors and potential with their relationships, too much trimming gives the impression that there’s nothing here to make these bros unique. With such fine intrigue elsewhere, this shouldn’t be the case. Early on hints of bro envy, daddy issues, and latent romance with the ethereal Emma Booth (Underbelly) inexplicably fall away. And let’s not forget Henry Cavill was thisclose to being 007, too.
Though hindered some by production, Blood Creek looks the good gore. There’s not as much blood as the title would have us believe- especially against other contemporary bloodbath shenanigans- and I almost want to say the blood is too stylized or even neat. However, the demonic horses and mix of vampire blood allusions and zombie motifs are sweet. The antique and subdued use of black and white in the period fine prologue is great, wonderfully hinting at the sinister or hiding the unspoken with a lovely use of shadow and light. The farmhouse is perfectly claustrophobic and devoid of color and conveniences. Instead of looking like overdone sepia or bleak digital grading, Blood Creek looks that old school scary noir. In some ways, I’d like to have seen the entire picture set in this time and style. Thankfully, the transition to color and the contemporary set up is also swiftly done, and the visual merging of the two styles as Blood Creek progresses is also neat and unexpected. Though it’s a cool effect to see things from Wirth’s perspective, it’s a little unnecessary, and some of the nighttime photography is also tough to see. Romania looks wonderfully spooky and bleak, but I wonder why they didn’t just film in West Virginia where the story takes place? I suppose when you want to save some money, you do what you have to do. Maybe Blood Creek could have been gorier considering the subject matter, but since we have only one baddie, there’s no need for excessive visuals taking away from the story. If there had been an entire brood of evil triple eyed vampy Nazis, things might have been a lot scarier, sure. However, such a slaughter fest leaves no room for subtlety and speculation. Normally, I wouldn’t trade intrigue for scares, but the former works far better in Blood Creek’s favor. Truly, I don’t know why this was a direct to video release; it was better than some of the same old horror theatricals out there.
Of course, a touch of Schumacher’s innuendo also finds its way into Blood Creek. Some of the fighting scenes between our three hot leads are positioned for just a touch of homoerotica. Fans of Schumacher will notice if they’re looking for it, but it doesn’t overtake the picture. Some might be more concerned with a few wicked horse scenes and do mind one doggy death! Some audiences online had questions about the ending, but I think the outcome is clear and a few of the plot inconsistencies can even be food for thought after several viewings of Blood Creek. Quick references to the achievement of the third all seeing eye during an eclipse might be missed the first time around. Critical viewers may wonder why the family kept all this going for so many years; but like the subdued daylight guardian of our traditional vampire, they didn’t really have a lot of choice. Wirth hasn’t been allowed to break out and feed to his content during a critical eclipse before. He doesn’t go rip-roaring like this every night! Wirth says he was waiting for someone angry like Victor and will make him help and ‘feed him’. Where Evan smartly sticks to the protection runes, Victor accidentally wipes his from his forehead. The ending narration claims the path to immortality is in swastika inscribed runes, and Wirth spent 70 years studying just such a stone. It seems he did find a way to his goal, didn’t he? The ambiguity of the villain being the victor is perhaps the scariest thing of all.
I’m a sad there isn’t any behind the scenes features on the quickie Blood Creek DVD. Subtitles, wow. While the commentary from Schumacher provides some insights, it doesn’t give enough in how he came to this uniquely blended project. He’s fun to listen to of course, but he’s also doing a commentary alone, which can get a little tiring during his long winded Nazi History lessons. I do, however, love the funny way he stops his historical yarns to fawn over Fassbender and Cavill- particularly when one blood-feasting scene gives Schumacher pause before telling the audience to go and rent Fassy’s starvation ode Hunger. Really, him drinking blood reminded you of him starving himself? Schumacher also confesses to giving a ‘nice butt crack shot of Dominic for his fans’. It really is a shame this picture had such a tough time with limited releasing. Fans of the hot bodies in the cast will certainly delight here. Yes, Blood Creek isn’t perfect, accept that. Nevertheless, horror fans looking for something a little different, fun, and intriguing should give these Nazi Zombie Vampires a chance. Who knew?
(On a totally ridiculous side note! For the life of me, I can’t find fellow Prison Break bro Wentworth Miller’s alleged cameo! A face in the newspaper clippings? Some German solder? Where? Where!)